Returning to the Workplace after Lockdown? How to Avoid Separation Anxiety in Your Dog
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The year 2020 will forever be etched in our minds as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns and restrictions worldwide, forcing us to stay at home, work from home, school from home. There have been some benefits – we’ve had more time to spend with our immediate families and pets. Our dogs; mans best friend – have been our companions throughout, vital for some who live alone. We really have been able to appreciate their presence a lot more this year, our walking buddies on our ‘once daily exercise’ walks, a constant through all the ups and downs.
Now though, news has come of vaccines, lockdowns are lifting, more people are heading back out to work again. Have we thought about the effect this might have on our furry friends? Have they become so used to our presence at home that they may suddenly become unsettled by being left alone again during the day? Did your dog suffer from separation anxiety before the pandemic and you haven’t yet found a way to tackle the issue?
I recently read an article about separation anxiety by the PDSA, which mentioned how dogs might react after a holiday period like Christmas or Easter, spending more time with loved ones during those periods. So imagine how the ‘holiday blues’ might feel but on a much greater scale – many of us have been working from home for MONTHS!
What is Separation Anxiety?
Going back to basics, let’s just get a few facts down about what separation anxiety is in dogs and why this might occur:
Simply put, Separation Anxiety (SA) is when your dog (usually occurring more in puppies and younger dogs but may start in adult dogs too) becomes extremely distressed from the moment you leave the house to the point at which you return.
Behaviours that may be exhibited include:
- Anxious behaviours such as pacing, whining, or trembling while you’re gone or as you get ready to go.
- Excessive barking or howling.
- Destructive acts, such as chewing or digging, particularly around doors or windows.
- Accidents in the house.
- Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting.
- Trying to escape confinement, potentially resulting in injury.
The dog many show multiple symptoms on a regular basis. Be careful not to label your dog as having SA if he just chews his bed occasionally or has the off accident, this may be down to training.
Why Does my Dog have Separation Anxiety?
There are several reasons which may predispose your dog to SA. Genetic, personality or medical factors may play a role. If your dog is in pain he may worry more, so think about getting him checked by the vet if he exhibits SA.
Often though, factors such as a change in something can trigger SA – if hes not used to being left to suddenly being left (this may be due to bereavement, divorce, new routine etc). A change in the household, i.e moving home may trigger it. Boredom and lack of exercise is thought to be a trigger, or perhaps something that has caused your dog to be scared.
What Can I do to Overcome My Dogs Separation Anxiety
There are plenty of tips about how to prevent and treat SA in dogs. Thinking more specifically about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected us, we’ll focus on how we might try and prevent your dog getting SA now you are heading back to the workplace after a long time at home:
- If you have adopted a puppy during the pandemic, you probably need to think about crate training him. Get him a puppy crate and make it comfortable, give him something familiar such as a toy or blanket. Training him to be in his crate will take time, as you will start from leaving him very short periods such as leaving the room, and building up slowly so that he is used to being left for longer periods. Reward him at each stage.
- Ideally, you wouldn’t leave a dog alone for more than 4 hours. If you’re going to work all day, think about hiring a dog walker/doggy daycare to come and see to him in the middle of the day, or possibly even sit with him for longer periods.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise – just as in humans, this is great for physical and mental well being and will help prevent boredom.
- Reduce disturbances – perhaps closing curtains and making the environment calm and comfortable, in a quiet room or perhaps with some white noise.
- If you don’t have a puppy and are not using a crate, ensure your dog has a comfy bed in which they feel safe and happy.
- Toys – boredom busting toys such as treat toys or ‘brain games’ may help keep your dog from other behaviour like destructive chewing. Some chew toys may be safe enough that you can leave them with your dog too.
- Don’t get your dog excitable before you leave. Try and make sure you have plenty of time before leaving and don’t rush, this may create stress for your dog. Don’t make a big fuss of saying goodbye, or even hello when you return – try and make it as ‘normal’ as possible
- When you are away from your dog, you may want to keep an eye on him remotely. Thankfully now there are products available which may even help prevent separation anxiety. Dog cameras are effectively like CCTV for your pet! Many are two-way interactive, alerting you when your dog is moving or barking and allowing you to talk to them and settle them down. Some like Furbo even have treat dispensers to reward your dog from afar. If you are worried about leaving your dog, and you think he is struggling too, we really recommend you look into one.
- Finally, try not to reprimand your dog if you do come home to an accident or chewed furniture. He won’t link your anger to his behaviour from earlier in the day, and it will only serve to make him more anxious next time you leave.
There is a lot you can do to try and prevent SA in your dog if you take the time to plan, and train him to be alone for periods of time. Try and limit his alone time to 4 hours, and seek help from a professional if your efforts are not helping matters. This year has been difficult for everybody, but don’t forget our beloved pets who have become so used to our presence that it may only be when life returns to ‘normal’ that we see the effect on them.